A screening method was developed for the isolation of Escherichia coli O157:H7 from raw ground beef. Suspensions at a 1:10 dilution of beef were made in a modified EC broth with novobiocin (mEC+n; EC broth with 1.12 g/L instead of 1.5 g/L Bile salts #3 and novobiocin at 20 mg/L). The samples were macerated in a Stomacher for 2 min and either shaken at 37°C (100 RPM) for 6 h, or incubated static at 35°C for 24 h. Appropriate dilutions of the cultures were then spread plated on 150×15 mm plates of MacConkey sorbitol agar (MSA). The MSA plates were incubated at 42°C overnight. A set of two plates consisting of a deep (40 ml/plate) phenol red sorbitol agar plate with 4-methylumbelliferyl ß-D-glucuronide (PRS-MUG), and a Levine EMB agar plate with added agar for a final concentration of 3%, were gridded into 12 numbered sections. Sorbitol negative colonies were picked from the MSA plates, spread on the appropriate section of the EMB, and stabbed into the corresponding section on the PRS-MUG plate. Those cultures that were sorbitol negative and MUG negative on PRS-MUG and were typically E. coli on EMB were confirmed biochemically and serologically. By this procedure O157:H7 was isolated from 5 of 10 meat samples inoculated at 0.6 organisms/g, and 10 of 10 samples at the 5/g level using the 6 h shaken method. With the 24 h static incubation method, O157:H7 was isolated from 8 of 10 samples at the 0.6/g level and 10 of 10 at the 5/g level. Thirteen strains of O157:H7 inoculated at levels between 0.4 and 0.6/g were tested and 9 of the 13 were isolated with the 6 h method, and 13 of the 13 with the 24 h method. The method is reliable and simple enough to be used in large screening programs.

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